Monthly Archives: December 2011


Seems like it was yesterday that the thought of stepping into another year brought a stomach-full of butterflies.*  After a long December, we were singing with the counting crows: maybe this year will be better than the last.  But…if not, I asked the Lord to open my eyes, awaken my heart to joy.  Not happy-‘cuz-life-is-good or happy-when-my-kids-behave.  Not happiness-found-in-escaping-to-anywhere-but-here or happy-from-a-pat-on-the-back. 
Joy that springs from a well deeper than circumstance. 
The joy that only He can give.  

Satisfy us in the morning with Your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. 
~ Psalm 90.14

2011 came, 
and this is just a snapshot.  
{There is so much left out…memories we hold in our hearts but don’t have on disk – lovely faces that grace our days, precious family, priceless friendships, warm exchanges in the hall, honest conversations, laughter and tears shared.}    

we hugged hard good-byes to loved ones…


we embraced hellos…

we shared our lives, our hearts, our journeys, our gluten-free cakes…

we faced our fears, cheering each other on in the process…

{below: before…}
we moved, gathered, celebrated…

{above: after!!!}
we discovered the wonder in the here, beauty in the now

You know what I see looking back on this year?
He has given joy!

We often don’t enjoy the experience at hand because we’re so caught 
up with reaching out for the next one…The secret to awakening joy 
is being present with whatever part of life we’re tasting right now.
~ James Baraz & Shoshana Alexander

More to come, as we ring in the New Year tonight with some of our favorites.
Wishing you a Happy New Year, filled with joy that only He can give! 

Rejoice, o weary world!

I don’t know how this Christmas finds you.  A house filled with loved ones, or longing to hold the hand of a love that’s passed…all your wishes under the tree, or wondering how you’ll make ends meet…peace in your home, or greed- gripped hearts stirring fights…crossing off your favorite to-do’s, or swapping out the fun for cleaning up vomit and washing mounds of soiled laundry…reflecting on the graces of a year past and the hope of a year to come, or far from home unsure of what tomorrow holds…

This time of year is funny like that.
We listen to the carols Have a holly, jolly Christmas and It’s the most wonderful time of the year.  Yet, for some, that is so very far from reality.
Can a Christmas still be merry? 
You may have nothing to unwrap, and yet everything to receive and embrace.  OR, you may have everything you wished for, yet settling to delight in the gift rather than the Giver.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining. 
‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope! The weary world rejoices!
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born…
Chains He shall break, for the slave is our brother. 
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name!
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

Have you ever thought about those words…truly, let them sink down deep?

We have so much to celebrate!  
Even when this time is not what we would have planned.  
It’s not about what is happening around us.  
But the Hope beyond this, the Joy within.  His joy, my strength.

*This* is how a Christmas can still be merry.  God is WITH us.

Wherever you are.  However you are, He is near those who call on His name.

    I am overcome with joy because of Your unfailing love,
for You have seen my troubles,
and You care about the anguish of my soul.
Psalm 31.7

May this Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace be as near and dear to you as you are to Him.

Wishing you a very merry celebration of the greatest Gift!

With care, Andy.Sara.Miles.Jack.Jude

silver stars

Ok.  So Monday morning came around, dad was on his way out the door, and a moment of panic may have washed over me, wondering if I can do this.  Deep breath.  Self-talk…something about you can do this, sure there’s 3 of them and 1 of you, but the days may come when being home on a Christmas break is the last place they want to be, so make this count.  Consult the chalkboard {our list-full of ideas for break}.  Ah, yes…  

Salt dough.  2 cups of flour, 1 cup of salt.  Mix with enough warm water (about a cup) to the consistency of play-doh.  Roll.  Cut.  Bake at 250 for 2 hours.  Follow it up with coffee and catching up with a dear friend.  And, we’re off to a wonderful start!

I don’t know what tomorrow holds.  But I know His mercies are new.  And, I’m gonna count them.  Because He is so gracious…
~ the dear faces who have graced our days and blessed our hearts
~ this gingerbread I have made 3 days in a row {substituting GF flour for regular, oil for butter, and adding 3/4 t. xanthan gum}
~ large pieces of paper that make even learning cursive fun
~ little eyes that light up when I squeeze their shoulders and kiss their forehead
~ this song – cannot get enough of it, turned up all the way
~ holiday trail mix
~ family game night
~ planning an 11 year celebration with my love next week!!!
~ boys delivering moose munch to our kind neighbors (which is all of them 🙂
~ Miles telling me when he’s married, he’s gonna stay up until 11 with his wife and play bey-blades (now I know what to buy for a wedding present 🙂
~ Jack in tears tonight over the presents he has under the tree and the kids who don’t know when their next meal will be
~ Jude’s little winks, and his smile, and his hugs…always his hugs

~ wrapping up the last of our house projects…and consequently wrapping gifts in caulk boxes with painter’s tape
~ this on my mind:

I am the Light of the world.  
If you follow Me, you won’t be stumbling through the darkness, 
because you will have the Light that leads to life!
~ Jesus, John 8.12 {NLT}

I pray this is the Light that captures our attention this Christmas.  
That our hearts prepare Him room…that He may shine bright in our lives!

pa rum pa pum pum

Christmas Break is here!!!  Two weeks with my boys at home, and we’re gonna live it up!  My goal was to be done with handmade gifts in order to enjoy fully this time.  It’s gonna fly, so we’re making a list and checking it twice.  {Plus, I’ve learned one of ours does so much better with some idea of what to expect from these days.}

Here’s a peek into our Christmas Break “to-do” list…
drive around to see Christmas lights . work on learning cursive . watch star wars . serve lunch at ‘our Father’s house’ .  snow angels . impromptu s’mores-in-the-fireplace parties . O-h-i-o . host family and friends . make and deliver buckeye bark or peppermint bark to the neighbors . talk about the birds and the bees . string popcorn and cranberries . look everyday for ways to bless, and…
Snowflake Stormtrooper
{peppermint mocha and cinnamon strudel look yum!}
Pinned Image

Of course we know these are better written on the chalkboard than in stone.  But, it’s fun to dream.  And, what’s on the top of my list?  The thing that (of all times in the year) should be priority, but can too easily get lost in the rush of all the activity…
To Come.

Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A newborn King to see, pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

So to honor Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
When we come.

Oh, that we not forget and fill our days with all sorts of busy-ness in the name of celebrating His birth.  He came that we may have life!  Life found only in the coming.  In the emptying and quieting and receiving of this Gift.

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
~ Jesus, John 10.10 {ESV}

flourless nutella cake

There are truffles to make, gifts to wrap, banners to sew, a glue gun to find…  But, consider this my Christmas gift to you.  The recipe for our new favorite dessert.  Flourless nutella chocolate cake.  I am finding that it’s pretty much guaranteed you’ll be asked for the recipe if you ever mention those 4 words together.  

flourless nutella chocolate cake
Note: This recipe is in grams.  Between pão de queijo and this, I use my $8 Wal-Mart gram scale all the time now.  If you don’t have a gram scale,  you can convert the grams in this recipe to ounces with Google. 
200g unsalted butter, cut into chunks
100g dark chocolate (I used Ghiradelli chocolate chips)
200g Nutella
100g white sugar
6 eggs, separated
1 t. instant coffee 

optional, but highly suggested:  whipping cream and more nutella to top

Butter and lightly coat a 9″ springform pan with cocoa powder. Preheat the oven to 350F, and move your baking rack to the lowest place in the oven.
Cut the butter into chunks and the dark chocolate as well, and melt in a double boiler until smooth.  Remove from heat and add the Nutella to the still-warm chocolate mix and mix well, until incorporated completely with a small whisk or fork. Add the instant coffee as well and mix.  Separate the egg whites and egg yolks into two separate bowls. Add the white sugar to the yolks and beat for a minute or two with a hand mixer or a whisk.  Add the chocolate mixture to the egg yolks and mix thoroughly.  In the bowl where the egg whites are separated out, whisk/beat them until stiff peaks form.  Add the beaten egg whites back to the chocolate mixture, mixing by hand until fully incorporated (this may take a few minutes) with a whisk.  Pour the mixture into the springform pan and place into the oven. Bake for 20-30 minutes (mine was done closer to 30 minutes). Test after 20 minutes how jiggly the center of the cake still is – you don’t want the cake to be completely solid when finished but the center should not sway when moved. Stick a toothpick in a few places to make sure it’s cooked through and the toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool (the cake will probably deflate quite a bit) at least 30 minutes before serving, and garnish with chopped hazelnuts or hazelnut halves.

What I did:  Whip up some whipping cream and fold in nutella until it’s a light brown (refer to the below picture).  This is almost like a mousse topping and gives the cake a delicious lightness to it.  
Source:  adapted from this recipe  
But truly, all credit goes to the world-reknown culinary extraordinaire, MARINA, for introducing me to this!

So, Merry Christmas to you!!!

And a most-happy birthday to grandma Becky!  

Of all the birthdays we have wished happy from afar, it was so sad that our camera battery died after this pic.  As best as we could, we etched the memories in our hearts as we celebrated this special day together. 

For continued unwrapping of Christmas:
– a must-read
– a good-watch
– a great-inspiration

Let every heart prepare Him room

still unwrapping

I first want to say thanks for your grace in my last post.  Those thoughts are not new to my mouth.  They usually come out over canning peaches with my mom or a cup of coffee with a friend or many a night on the couch with my love.  The ongoing questions of how to wrap our minds around the need.  How to live here in light of the rest of the world.

It seems the more we ask what to do, the more I think that maybe it is not so much about finding *the* answer, but about doing the asking.  If there were some sort of checklist of what we should or should not have and how much we should give, why would we ever need to seek the heart of the Author, the Creator, the Sustainer?  And maybe He created it that way so that we would come.  Because in the coming, there’s so much more that is revealed than where our money goes.  As we ask for eyes to see the need and the heart to reach out, it becomes so much more than sending a check and checking off the list.  It is gut-searching, soul-revealing, Spirit-refining, seeking the heart of this loving Father, selfless Savior, who spared nothing.  Who so graciously lavished.   

I have been reading Mother Teresa’s thoughts this week.  Talk about a lady whose drop in the ocean is still creating tidal waves of love and justice.  One phrase has stuck out to me, as I muse about these things:

Live simply so others may simply live.

I could go on and on…but it’s a conversation that’s better over coffee or by the fire…
some scenes from our weekend-ing

Next up…flourless nutella cake.
‘Cuz I haven’t figured out how to include it in this post.
Not that it’s wrong to enjoy a slice of cake.  It just seems more Marie Antoinette than Mother Teresa {although I am sure Mother T would have loved this cake.} So, stay tuned 🙂

define necessity

I can’t get this image off my mind. 

ne·ces·si·ty (noun)
1 : the state of being in need
2 : pressure of circumstance
something that is required
 b: an urgent need or desire 

Which is why it’s December 5th…and I haven’t bought a single Christmas gift. Nada.  Between that picture, finishing up the book Radical and redoing a house, we’ve been stalled figuring out what to do.  I mean, with house projects left undone, it’s hard to buy another bey-blade, but doesn’t seem quite right to tell the boys “Merry Christmas! We bought caulk for your windows!!”

So, we have this dilemma.  A first-world dilemma, that is.  While reading the boys’ Christmas Wish-Lists touched my heart…I think about the mamas whose kids don’t have a pencil and paper to write down their 5 wishes.  And what would they be?  Clean Water…Rice…Milk to sustain a baby brother, Medicine to heal a little sister…   It makes my stomach turn and the tears fall to imagine.  How that mama feels, day after day…   

I’ve hesitated to post this for so long, because I’m not sure what the answer is.  Is giving our kids one gift from their wish-list, and then buying a chicken for someone in need enough?  Hardly seems so.  It seems like it would be a lot easier if there was a checklist of how much is right to give away, how much is okay to keep, and how much your kids should have.  But I haven’t come across one…  

And so, I’m over here pondering what celebrates Christ??  What honors Him?  
All I know is that {at the risk of sounding like debbie downer} it’s far too easy to be lulled to sleep on our pillow-top-mattressed-beds rather than waking up to see the world is so much bigger.  And there are *needs* so much greater than the latest gadget!  {Please don’t hear me say buying presents is wrong, because I have plans to (in the next 20 days) buy some… *Great* ideas here and here.}  

May we remember Christmas is so much more than what we put beneath our tree.  Lest we forget to unwrap the very need for why Christ was born: The world was not right without a Savior.  It still isn’t.  So…may our lives be more about making His Kingdom known than building a comfortable one for ourselves.  

How does that look for you?  
Well, only He knows.  
What a beautiful promise that those who seek will find.

Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for.  Keep on looking, and you will find.  
Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened.  For everyone who asks, receives.  
Everyone who seeks, finds.  And the door is opened to everyone who knocks.  
~ Jesus {Matthew 7.7-8}